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Upper Dublin's Cross deceptively productive

If it appears that Kelly Cross is idling about on the field, well, look harder. Take a moment. Observe. Things . . . are . . . developing.

If it appears that Kelly Cross is idling about on the field, well, look harder. Take a moment. Observe. Things . . . are . . . developing.

It is most appropriate to watch Cross, a senior on the Upper Dublin girls' lacrosse team, just as she plays the game - with patience.

All of Cross' lacrosse life, people have told her that she looks too relaxed on the field. It's actually a fairly curious notion, considering that vast majority of high school athletes are prodded so readily to think the game, that her main criticism - if you can call it that - has been of her supposedly lackadaisical demeanor.

"Sometimes it drives me nuts, because it looks like she's just standing there," said Dee Cross, Kelly's mother and coach, "when really she's just waiting for that second cutter. That's always been her forte."

This season, Cross is using that approach to lead a very good Cardinals team, which on Friday finished its regular season with a 15-3 record while continuing its five-year unbeaten streak in the Suburban One League American Conference.

Through Sunday, Cross recorded 69 goals and 55 assists, continuing a prolific stretch dating back to last season. As a junior, she amassed lofty totals of 95 goals and 54 assists, including the postseason. This year, she was the driving force in Upper Dublin outscoring the rest of the American Conference by a combined total of 195-31.

"I feel like as an offensive unit, we've been working on looking for that open cutter, drawing the double team and then looking to get free," Kelly Cross said. "I think this year especially we've improved on that - just feed it in and a lot of the times I'm the one that's open."

Relative to a loaded local crop of District 1 programs, the Cardinals are considered quite good, but not great. They hope to qualify for their second straight PIAA tournament, following the District 1 tournament, which begins on Tuesday. Seniors Brooke Callahan and Emily Hitchings are Cross' most talented running mates. Her younger sister, Julie, is a freshman on the team and there are eight seniors on the roster.

But take Cross, who next year will join her sister, Amy, at Syracuse, off the team, and they all of a sudden appear far more pedestrian. It is Cross' ability to make her teammates better that has buoyed Upper Dublin this year.

In a recent game against a star-studded Springfield (Delco) team, the Cardinals trailed by six goals by under five minutes to play. With Cross as the catalyst, Upper Dublin rallied for four unanswered goals and pulled within two with under a minute to go.

Cross didn't score a goal during that run, but assisted three of them. The Cards ultimately lost, but the spirited rally spoke volumes about her capacity to orchestrate an offensive attack.

"I just try to serve as a calming presence for the offense," she said, "working the ball around so that we keep possession until we can score."

Added her mother/coach, Dee, who was on the women's lacrosse World Cup team that won gold in 1989: "She was able to bring us back along with the other seniors. . . . Her overall game sense has really evolved, but it's nothing you can really teach."

200-goal club. Two local girls' players surpassed the 200-goal plateau for their high school careers last week.

Hatboro-Horsham senior Nicole Beck notched her 200th with a three-goal effort on senior night last Tuesday. Beck, the Hatters' second-year captain, is committed to play at Berkeley (Calif.) in college.

Also on Tuesday, Spring-Ford senior Maddie Ward recorded No. 200 amid a three-goal, four-assist performance in a Pioneer Athletic Conference semifinal victory over Pottstown. Ward will play her college lacrosse at Massachusetts.

Playoff time. The boys' and girls' District 1 playoffs begin on Tuesday. Conestoga is the top seed in 29-team boys' field. The Pioneers receive a bye, as do No. 2 Downingtown West and No. 3 Central Bucks East. Great Valley is top-seeded girls' team in the 32-team field. Seven girls teams advance to the state tournament, while five boys teams will move on.